Effective marketing strategies for freelancers: Cultivating a constant flow of potential clients
Clients are an essential source of income for independent consultants – that much is self-evident. What’s much less clear is how to maintain a ready source of potential clients that are interested in your services.
It’s difficult to persuade someone who has never heard of you and is most likely not even considering your services, to commit to a business relationship simply because you need revenue.
The answer to this challenge lies in an effective marketing campaign – in other words ensuring that you are maintaining a constant presence amongst your target market – thereby keeping your services top of mind amongst potential clients.
The problem is that there’s a dizzying number of marketing tactics available. Should you use social media? Attend networking events? Start a newsletter? Which methods will produce the best results? In this article, we’ll consider some of the best marketing models for independent consultants
Fit for purpose
Your marketing model will be influenced by where you are in your consulting career. In this respect we suggest a three-tier approach:
- Building a credible audience through outreach – for when you’re still establishing your reputation.
- Finding a balance between direct outreaches & inbound marketing – approaches to consider when you are an established consultant.
- Showcase your expertise – as an expert you can further cement your position via content creation.
It’s important to note that the approaches in each of these tiers (or combinations thereof) can be used at any career stage because marketing approaches are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
Building audiences through outreach
Early on in your career you need maximum impact from your marketing efforts to build a client base and generate a sustainable income. The following approaches can help you establish momentum:
Leverage your own network
The first place to start when reaching out to find clients is within your own network. For example, your first degree connections on LinkedIn are all people you have deliberately connected with in a professional capacity, so use them as your base for your outreach. You can share a simple message on LinkedIn mentioning how the services you offer can be a value -add to them and get them interested to make you an offer.
However, your direct outreach funnel cannot stop at one LinkedIn message or InMail. Following up with your prospects not only adds value but helps them recall your business and proposition. Your follow up message need not be a perfectly crafted template, it can be a data point or a case study that they might find meaningful or unique.
Your own personal contacts, outside of your social media accounts can also provide you with outreach opportunities. Networking among your friends and family can often provide leads.
Peer networking and support
When you are starting out offering support services to existing consultants can help you get started. Yes, your earnings will be lower and there are non-disclosure and client referral agreements to negotiate but it is often the surest way to get yourself on the radar – albeit with restrictions on your freedom to operate.
Connecting with other consultants via online communities opens up a number of new opportunities.
Not only will you widen your network with this exposure, but many have job postings and invaluable resources available. These online communities also have forums where members can share ideas and tips on marketing.
Outsized has recently launched its Community to provide access to mentors, specialists, and peers that can be invaluable for independent consultants just starting out. Since most other independents have been through similar circumstances, they help you make the best of your situation and can provide you with self-tested solutions. Individually no one has all the answers, but as a group, they can be that ear, that voice of reason, and that shoulder to lean on.
Blending direct outreach and inbound marketing
Once you have an established client base you can start adding direct value to potential clients through your marketing activities. These value adding activities can include:
The intention is not secure business but to quickly establish a connection with a potential client and determine (based on their needs) if you can include them in your marketing drives. This is when you reach out to prospects who are not part of your personal network, thus, messaging becomes extremely important. Your message needs to be crafted in a way that shows your prospect that you are aware of their problem areas and you hold the expertise to solve it for them.
Create awareness and reach out individually, email marketing can be very effective if the right recipient is reached.
Make sure you do your due diligence and find exactly who you need to contact. Keep your messaging short, clear and include a value proposition.
This, however, is easier said than done. For someone receiving a plenitude of emails per day, your email needs to stand out for them to even open it. While you are required to be creative with writing cold emails, there is a science behind it that will get you through the door. Here’s our six-point checklist for writing effective introductory emails that bring in the right clients for your freelance business.
Creating your own good quality, engaging content, and sharing it on your social media platforms goes a long way to establishing connections and positions you as a thought leader and expert among your peers and potential clients.
Social media platforms give you access to a huge audience: you can connect with your entire network. Leveraging off your own profiles, you can create outreach campaigns using LinkedIn. Posting content that is of value, industry related and interesting content, you can increase your reach and engagement.
If you have established yourself as a subject matter expert, consistent content generation is vital to maintaining your position at the top. Building an active following (which will be easier if you have attained a level of expertise), providing insightful news and developing strong relationships with individuals who may hire you or offer referrals goes a long way to establishing you as an expert in your field.
Your own social media profiles are a means to showcase your expertise. A good LinkedIn profile where you post regular content should be a priority. Joining groups and posting high quality content will also increase your reach and give you more exposure.
Types of content to post:
- Your own articles/blogs
- Tips and best practices
- Industry related links that you have sourced
- Other people’s content
- Latest trends
Each consultant will adopt their own marketing strategy, just remember even if your calendar is busy, keep marketing. You never know when a client’s contract will be cancelled. So, make marketing a habit and use your preferred methods to keep a pipeline of potential consulting assignments ready to go.